Issue of August 30, 2015
     
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68th
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EDITORIAL

Strengthening the ‘City Beautiful’


The City of Baguio hogs the limelight this week as it celebrates its 106th founding anniversary, decidedly in far greater shape and in marked contrast to a time when its American planners envisioned it a “hill station” at the turn of the 20th century.

That ‘hill station’ has since metamorphosed into an urbanized metropolis with a population of more than 300,000 persons as of 2007 and it is still growing. In the hierarchy of Philippine cities, it now ranks high up there as a major destination, a center of trade and commerce and as the seat of prestigious schools and universities.

In “City of Pines (The Origins of Baguio as a Colonial Hill Station and Regional Capital),” the American author and scholar Robert R. Reed cited four reasons on what makes the City of Baguio unique.

First, it was planned primarily as a health and recreation center and developed secondarily as a regional capital.

Second, it was a spin-off from the “city beautiful” movement that helped shape the cities of Chicago and San Francisco. Third, the American colonials persisted in introducing development (such as the Kennon Road) for the city to be beneficial both to westerners and Filipinos.

Finally, it welcomed Filipinization of the city as it “evolved eventually into a major regional capital and a flourishing hill station adapted to the service of Filipinos.”

That uniqueness still holds true today. It explains the magic that draws people to it like magnet. 

Development has not slackened a bit. Business is thriving. Peace and order remains exceptional.

But it is not the full picture. As Typhoon Ineng stripped bare in a matter of days, the grim reality shows a fragile infrastructure in place and an abused and strained environment prone to climactic takedowns.

Even now, power remains un-restored in some areas. It will take probably another week before the Kennon Road, its slopes weakened by human activity and lack of management, will be re-opened to traffic.

The situation, we believe, calls for hard decisions and long-term measures. For a start, the local power utility company with its world-class capability and expertise can take the lead to modernization by shifting to underground cables to secure its main lines in keeping with a harsh terrain. This will eliminate the use of poles and free the streets of obstructions.

With the effects of climate change no longer to be denied, City Hall should take extra effort to protect its pine grooves and remaining forests. It should impose a moratorium on the transformation of every vacant space or slopes into buildings, where trees are the better fit. The pine trees are what defines the character to this ‘city beautiful’ and with them allowed to thrive in abundance, there is hope this city will remain attractive and healthy to serve future generations of Filipinos.

 

 



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